As Oisin Murphy prepares for his return, the stakes could hardly be higher

 

As Oisin Murphy prepares for his return, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Oisin Murphy’s stunning victory on Marche Lorraine in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar in November 2021 is one of my fondest racing memories. He had defeated William Buick, a rival in the weighing room, in a titanic battle for the British jockeys’ championship on the final day of Ascot. However, the champion was given a 14-month ban for violating Covid protocols and drinking alcohol.

On February 16, Murphy will be able to resume racing. For the former champion, nothing could be more important. Qatar Racing, his primary employer, has remained supportive of the jockey throughout his treatment for addictions.

Throughout his suspension, he has continued to ride only in Berkshire, partnering Andrew Balding’s top colts The Foxes and Chaldean in gallops at Kingsclere and riding for Ed Walker and Archie Watson of Lambourn.

Murphy was always good on horses and loved showjumping as a kid. Consequently, he recently won a class representing Ireland in the Sunshine Tour showjumping series in Spain.

The day after he failed a pre-race breath test at Newmarket on October 8, 2021, his girlfriend Lizzie Nielsen, the daughter of Stradivarius’ owner and breeder Bjorn, committed himself to his rehabilitation. Lizzie Nielsen has stood by him and supported him throughout the process.

When I met Murphy at George Boughey’s Newmarket stable, where he rode Missed The Cut, an intended runner in Saudi Arabia’s The Neom Turf Cup at the end of February, he appeared relaxed and focused. The jockey has recently lost 10 pounds, reaching a weight of 9 stone.

He is prepared to fight for his championship back and restart his career.

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Cheltenham is criticised for selling £7.50 worth of Guinness at a snooker tournament.

After it was discovered that a pint of Guinness costing £7.50 at race meetings was $1.50 more than at a snooker event held at the racecourse last week, Cheltenham’s drink prices have once again come under fire.

At the World Grand Prix of Snooker, which was held in the Centaur building at the racecourse, all pints were sold for less.

Cheltenham claimed that catering costs were lower for smaller events when defending the prices. On the other hand, racegoers on Twitter were unimpressed, with one saying that “racegoers blatantly being ripped off” was the situation.

A pint of Guinness, according to the Jockey Club, will continue to cost £7.50 for the March Cheltenham Festival.

A Jockey Club spokesperson said: “There are a lot more set-up costs with a major UK sporting event compared to a smaller and more locally resourced event. These costs are reflective of that. At the Jockey Club, any profits are reinvested into all aspects of British horse racing.”

The disparity in prices drew a response on social media. “It’s a joke, been going years for the week, [they’re] pricing proper racegoers out of it for the young day-trippers,” tweeted Duncan Murray.

“If it was freshly poured and made with care they could attempt to justify the price,” added Maurice Macken on Twitter. “The fact they have agency staff pour them and sit them on the back counter for the half-hour between races is just as scandalous as the price.”

The cost of a daytime ticket to watch the snooker match ranged from £29 in the early stages to £65 in the championship match. Saturday’s Cheltenham Trials day advance tickets cost between £12 and £26. On the first three days of the Cheltenham Festival, which begins on March 14, tickets range in price from £50 to £103, rising once more on Gold Cup day.

The Centaur has a maximum seating capacity of 2,250 and hosts comedy, music, and sporting events throughout the year.

In the Racing Post’s Racecourse Prices Index, the highest price for a pint of Guinness at any racetrack in Britain or Ireland was £7.50 at Cheltenham. The price was 50p more than Epsom, which came in second.

During the Cheltenham Festival in 2020, it was estimated that 265,000 pints of Guinness were consumed.

In the meantime, one of the town councillors has started a campaign to paint splash-back paint on all the walls leading to the racetrack to stop racegoers from urinating.

During festival week, Liberal Democrat Max Wilkinson launched his “war on wee” petition to combat antisocial behavior.

However, Cheltenham has launched a “Love Our Turf” campaign, which was tested at the November meeting, to address issues raised at that meeting.

The initiative, which was sparked by complaints from local residents, includes adding more marshals and toilets to the roads that leave the racetrack.

At the three-day meeting in November, no incidents were reported, and the local MP Alex Chalk and the chief inspector for Gloucestershire Police praised the first effort as a success.

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Poignant Ahoy Senor date after Peter Russell’s death at 95.

Peter Russell, the “hugely supportive” father of Lucinda Russell, the trainer who won the Grand National, has passed away at the age of 95.

He owned Ahoy Senor in part, and the dual Grade 1 winner will still compete in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase on Saturday at Cheltenham.

“He died on Monday, exactly 64 years after he and mum got married,” his daughter said on Wednesday. “But he was so excited about Ahoy Senor and the horse will run on Saturday.

“Dad was one of those who’d say if something happens, life goes on. He never dwelt on something. He was very emotional but he never let emotion stop progress.”

After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in accounting, Peter Russell took over the family whisky-broking business after his father’s death in 1956. He grew it until Ian Macleod Distillers became the tenth largest Scotch whisky company, selling more than 15 million bottles of spirits annually.

“He was very pioneering,” Lucinda Russell said. “The whisky trade was very insular, full of old-fashioned family businesses, and his big breakthrough was selling to the supermarkets. He had great integrity and companies would all deal with him.”

Since his daughter obtained a full license in 1995, Peter Russell has owned whole or part shares in the Arlary House stable, which is located on his own land in Kinross, which is about an hour north of Edinburgh.

“He got into racing totally because of me, he was a very supportive father,” Lucinda Russell said. “When I was eventing he got into that and when I started in racing he got into that.

“He had point-to-pointers and he probably enjoyed that more than the racing. He’d park where everyone had to walk past him. He’d take a picnic of some bacon rolls and two bottles of gin, with tonic and lemons, and everyone would have a drink with him.

“In pointing and racing he loved helping the young kids and giving them their first rides – he gave Craig Nichol, Grant Cockburn, Rachel McDonald and many others their first win and that meant a lot to him.”

Peter Russell also supported Scottish racing as a sponsor and his daughter said: “He sponsored at tracks that he liked – he adored Richard Langdale at Kelso and Sam Morshead at Perth and he sponsored at both.

“He changed the nature of sponsorship as he always wanted a box so he could entertain his friends but if people were loyal to him, he’d support them through thick and thin.”

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A breeder from Ireland is getting ready to drive from Tipperary to Ukraine to deliver essential supplies.

A fundraising campaign to transport equine medicine across Europe to assist horses in Ukraine has united the Irish racing community.

There were thought to be around 100,000 horses in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion in February 2022; however, the actual number is unknown at this time.

The number of stressed and injured horses has also put a lot of stress on the country’s veterinary medical supply chain. Many horses have been stolen, displaced, killed, or died from hunger and injuries.

John O’Connor, who owns Ballykelly Stud in County Tipperary, has created Project Cossack, which will see him drive to Ukraine to deliver supplies to Odessa and Kyiv that are desperately needed there.

The thoroughbred center known as the Hippodrome in Kyiv currently houses hundreds of horses. O’Connor has received the necessary medications and a Nissan Pathfinder for the 3,000-kilometer journey with the assistance of a number of industry figures.

“In recent months I’ve visited the Hippodrome in Kyiv on several occasions,” said O’Connor. “It’s home to about 250 horses. Caring for them has become increasingly problematic and there is an urgent need for equine veterinary medicine.

“A large four-wheel-drive vehicle has been acquired and is in the process of being made winter-ready. It’ll be filled with veterinary medicines and driven from Ireland to Kyiv.”

A fundraising page has been set up online to raise the €20,000 needed to run the operation, and it is hoped that the journey can be completed as soon as possible.

“When we get there the medicines will be handed over to the management of the Kyiv Hippodrome,” O’Connor. added. “We’ll then proceed eastwards towards the conflict zone, where the vehicle will be given to an NGO specialising in the exfiltration of the vulnerable and wounded from frontline areas. There is a desperate need for this capability.

“We will also make the most of our journey by travelling to the frontlines to help with the evacuation of people. To escape the worst-hit areas of the war, the most vulnerable Ukrainians are reliant on volunteers using any vehicles they can find to ferry people to safety.

“It is among the most dangerous jobs in the world, playing a cat-and-mouse game with artillery fire to retrieve vulnerable civilians from the devastation that is the east of Ukraine.

“We have a very brave friend, Dmytro ‘Dima’ Omelchenko, who spends his time doing just that. He started by using his parent’s family sedan until it was full of holes from shrapnel and bullets and, ultimately, destroyed by driving over a landmine while evading a missile.”

O’Connor acknowledged that there is tension and nervousness leading up to the trip, but he is determined to make a difference in any way he can.

He said: “We hope to launch the first mission soon. The fundraising effort is being managed by the Breeze-Up Consignors Association and we’d ask people to try and give generously to this very worthwhile activity. It will make a very big difference to the equine and human population of Ukraine.”

O’Connor is hopeful that because he bred the Grade 1 winner, he will have returned in time to watch the Marine Nationale, trained by Barry Connell, attempt to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Britain’s racing community has already contributed to the delivery of equine and humanitarian aid to Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion.

Trainer Gay Kelleway has traveled to the border between Ukraine and Poland, where she has brought back horses and refugees from aid missions. Additionally, Charlie Mann and Oisin Murphy have delivered aid to Ukrainian refugees in Poland last year under the name Racing to Help Ukraine.

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‘It’s been such a pleasure’ – trainer David Brown calls time on his career.

When Blazing Hot competes in the closing 5f handicap (5.10) at Southwell on Monday, David Brown will have his final runner before retiring as a trainer.

When Blazing Hot reaches its conclusion, it will reveal Brown’s 15-year training career, which began when he sold his engineering business to an American company.

Brown stated, expressing his decision to retire, “I’m 78 now and it’s time. We always planned to spend about that long training horses after we sold out of the business, and we’ve had a great time, met some lovely people and been all over the world.

“We have a house in Spain and we’re going to spend more time over there, but I think I might keep a horse over here in training. We’ve done all that we wanted to do.”

When Brown started his business in 2008, he wasn’t new to racing. He had worked as a stable staff member before starting his own engineering company while attending night school.

Before getting a full license, he trained under a permit in the 1990s and owned horses with Steve Norton and Sir Michael Stoute.

Frederick Engels, the 2011 Group 2 July Stakes winner and the first winner at Royal Ascot for Sheikh Fahad and his brothers in Qatar Racing when landing the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes the same year, was Brown’s top performer during his full-time training career.

“He wanted a horse who could win at Ascot so he could have tea with the Queen and I told him this was the horse, this horse would win, and I was delighted when he did,” he said.

“He was a very good horse, he was frighteningly good really. He was that good I didn’t really have anything to work him with, so the week before Royal Ascot I galloped him with Doncaster Rover, who was rated over 100 and was leading, with the plan being for Frederick to join him.

“Well, when he was asked to quicken he picked up and went clear of him, so I thought that was enough for me to be sure he would win the next week!”

Brown trained 224 Flat winners in Britain, including Frederick Engels, who was sold to Hong Kong at the end of his juvenile season. He also trained Group 3 winner My Catch, Listed scorers Wind Fire, Medrano, and Mind Of Madness, and multiple Listed-winner Doncaster Rover.

Brown stated, “I think the horse this afternoon has a good chance, you know. Hopefully, we can end with a bang. We do have one more entered this week, but I don’t think I will run him.

“It’s been such a pleasure to train and the likes of Sheikh Fahad, John Fretwell and other owners were so supportive of me and really backed me and what we were doing.”

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Training stalwart Milton Bradley dies at 88: “He was different class.”

Following his death at the age of 88, tributes have been paid to the “remarkable” trainer Milton Bradley and his unique ability to transform inexpensively purchased horses.

After more than 50 years as a license holder, Bradley retired in 2021. He was best known for his ability to turn cheap racehorses into prolific winners and top performers.

After the sprinter won at Catterick in 2002 and went on to win the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot two years later, Bradley bought The Tatling for £15,000.

From his farm in Sedbury, Gloucestershire, near the Welsh border, the trainer produced more than 1,000 winners in both codes. Other cherished horses include Brevity, Sooty Tern, Grey Dolphin, and Offa’s Mead.

His enthusiasm for racing has been passed down to his granddaughter Hayley, who is involved in a training operation in Essex with her husband, Charlie Wallis. At one point, he had as many as 90 horses in his yard.

Wallis said: “There aren’t enough words to appreciate how wonderful he was. He was a great man who gave everybody a chance, including a lot of the jockeys. I rode a few winners for him and trained some for him too which I’m very proud of.

“As a trainer he was different class, he was a very good horseman. I’d always be on the phone to him twice a week as I had a couple to train for him and he’d give me advice and fill me with confidence if ever we had a bad run. He’ll be a massive loss to me and my wife. We’re all heartbroken.”

Since Bradley’s first jumps horse was owned by Eddie Hayward OBE in 1977, the pair maintained a close friendship for more than 40 years.

“He was a remarkable man,” said Hayward. “His knowledge of racing was incredible, right from being a youngster. He went from riding horses to training them and together we’ve had well over 200 winners. Many of them didn’t cost much too, not everyone can do that.

“He’d have a go at every race and one of the comical things he’d usually say is ‘Yes, the horse is 20-1 but he doesn’t know that’. We’ve been close friends all the way through for over 50 years.”

At the 2019 Welsh Horseracing Awards, Bradley was also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the sport.

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Kim Bailey criticizes Cheltenham’s early closing entries, calling them “absolutely daft.”

Kim Bailey is advocating for the elimination of early closing entries for races at the Cheltenham Festival, describing them as an unnecessary “drip-feed” for owners to pay during a time of uncertainty regarding their financial situation.

The deadline for submitting entries for Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival, which begin at £780 for a spot in the Gold Cup and £218 for the three top-level novice chases announced this week, is January 1.

A further £1,560 is charged during the scratching phase in February for the Gold Cup, and £780 is charged during the confirmation stage a week before the race, for a total expenditure of £3,120.

The subsequent fees, which total £875, are £439 and £218 for the three Grade 1 novice chases.

Ten of the festival races have already closed, representing a 35% decrease from 2018. Bailey, a local trainer, believes that a ten-day phase that is shorter and less expensive could increase the number of Cheltenham runners and prevent owners from being overcharged if they enter but do not race.

“I can’t see why we should have early closing races, I’d probably say it’s my own big bug-bear,” said the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer.

“A lot of us have horses we think could be good enough to go to Cheltenham but they haven’t shown us enough on the racecourse. To try to make an entry for that horse has got to be the wrong idea.

“There’s no necessity to go and do it, you could easily have a ten-day entry stage before Cheltenham if that would make a difference.

“Prices for everything have gone through the roof, it’s all expensive, including entries, and it’s not right that owners are being asked to dip into their pocket for an entry when they might not even run.”

Only three horses were confirmed on Monday in the disappointing turnout for Saturday’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot due to early closing entries. The race could not be reopened because of the system for entering.

Bailey said that the National Hunt Chase was one Cheltenham race where early closing entries were not necessary. From 89 at the entry point in 2016 to 37 this season, it has experienced a significant drop in potential runners. Since there is no additional stage, only those who entered in January can compete.

“Early closing entries for the National Hunt Chase is absolutely daft,” added Bailey. “With a winter like we’ve had, racing has been quite difficult and there are a lot of horses around who we don’t know are going to be good enough to go to Cheltenham.

“It’s a really difficult situation to ring up an owner, tell them you want to make an entry and then say, ‘But we’re not sure if we’re good enough’. It’s just drip-feeding money into the racecourse accounts.

“I get there’s lots of attention with the Gold Cup and Grand National, but with some races you look and think, ‘Why would I make an entry for a horse if they’ve got absolutely no chance but between entry and the race they might have improved a long way?’

“Then suddenly you wish you were in. You’re then in a situation where you have to supplement at great expense, and it’s not worthwhile.”

To receive full reimbursement for entry fees in the majority of Cheltenham races, a horse must place at least seventh. The Gold Cup’s entry fee is £3,120, and the seventh place winner will receive £4,125. In order to cover the cost of a second entry, a horse would need to place fourth.

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Conor Grant, the new chairman of Racecourse Media Group, was previously in charge of Flutter.

The new chairman of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), Conor Grant, who previously held the position of chief executive of Flutter UK & Ireland, is scheduled to assume the position later this year.

Grant, 46, is a veteran of the gambling industry. On April 1, he will join the racecourse-owned RMG as a non-executive director. On October 1, he will take over as chairman from Roger Lewis.

He stated, “I am delighted to be joining Racecourse Media Group at such an exciting time for the business and the broader racing industry.

“RMG has delivered outstanding results for its shareholders in recent years and I would like to pay tribute to Roger who has done a fantastic job, along with CEO Martin Stevenson, in growing and developing the business.

“I look forward to working with the RMG team and continuing to deliver for all of our racecourses.”

Grant, a racehorse owner, started his career at Paddy Power before working at Blue Square, BoyleSports, and Sky Bet, where he eventually became chief operating officer.

After gambling giants Flutter Entertainment and Sky Bet’s owner, The Stars Group, merged in 2020, Grant became Flutter’s UK & Ireland CEO, overseeing Sky Bet, Paddy Power, tombola, and Betfair.

Last summer, Flutter made the announcement that Grant would be leaving his position as part of a planned career break and to spend more time with his family.

As the parent company of Racing TV and the umbrella organization for 35 British racecourse shareholders, RMG welcomed Grant’s appointment.

A non-executive director on the RMG board and chief executive of Jockey Club, Nevin Truesdale, stated: I am thrilled to have Conor join the RMG board and to collaborate with him as we expand the company for the benefit of shareholder racecourses.

“Conor brings significant and in-depth expertise to the industry, acquired over a long period of time, and this will help shape our strategies and address the challenges we are facing.”

After 22 months with the racecourse group, chief commercial officer Charlie Boss has left to take the same position with Premier League football club Southampton.

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TonyBet, an online betting company, was fined £443,000 for using untrue identification terms.

TonyBet, an online gambling company, was fined £442,750 for breaking a number of rules, including unfair terms that allowed it to request identification documents for all withdrawals but not for deposits.

The operator was penalized by the Gambling Commission for not adhering to social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, in addition to being found to have terms that were unfair and opaque.

TonyBet, which owns and operates tonybet.co.uk, will also have to go through a third-party audit to see if it is meeting the requirements for AML and social responsibility.

TonyBet’s website’s unfair terms included the company saying it could ask for ID documents for “all withdrawals,” but not insisting on those checks earlier in the process, which the commission said could hinder deposits but not withdrawals.

When customers failed to provide AML documentation within 30 days, winnings could be confiscated, and accounts were considered dormant after six months of inactivity when they should have been considered dormant after twelve months.

Kay Roberts, the executive director of operations for the Gambling Commission, stated: This case not only highlights the measures we will take against gambling establishments that fail to be honest and open with customers, but it also demonstrates our drive to crack down on anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures.”

Failure to identify and interact with customers who might be harmed by gambling was one example of social responsibility failure.

Failures in anti-money laundering (AML) included failing to carry out adequate risk assessments of the businesses that were being used for terrorist financing and money laundering, as well as failing to ensure that they had the appropriate policies, procedures, and controls in place to stop money laundering and terrorist financing.

Following a series of AML and safer gambling failings, Vivaro Limited, which trades under the name vbet, was fined £337,631 by the industry regulator. This is the second punishment this week.

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Flooring Porter’s attempt to win the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle for the third time in a row is in jeopardy, according to trainer Gavin Cromwell.

The star of the staying hurdle division was a 5-1 shot to win the Stayers’ Hurdle for the third time, which would bring him within one victory of Big Buck, but his trainer now rates his participation at 50-50.

Cromwell told the Racing Post on Wednesday: “Unfortunately Flooring Porter has suffered a setback and it’s going to be tight as to whether he will make Cheltenham or not. I would say at this stage it’s probably 50-50. The next three weeks will tell a lot, but he will be missing bits of work which is not ideal.

“It is not a career-threatening injury or anything like that, it is just a small setback which is going to hold us up a bit.”

One of the most successful success stories in jump racing in recent times is Flooring Porter’s journey from poverty to wealth. When he won a maiden hurdle at Bellewstown in 2019, he was only rated 95 and had lost his first four races.

He has gone from strength to strength ever since he won a handicap hurdle at Gowran Park in 2020. He now has a rating of 162 and has won the last two Cheltenham Festivals.

Flooring Porter was defeated at Navan and Leopardstown on his way to winning his second Stayers’ Hurdle in 2022 under another excellent front-running steer from Danny Mullins. He typically saves his best performances for the spring.

This year, the eight-year-old went through a similar training. In November, he finished fourth to Home By The Lee in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan, losing by 12 lengths. However, in the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, he came within three and three-quarter lengths of the same horse.

Flooring Porter has been competing for the Stayers’ Hurdle all season, but the news of his defeat has made Home By The Lee the 4-1 sponsor favourite.

Ned Hogarty, who owns Flooring Porter with father and son Tommy and Alan Sweeney and Kerril Creaven and owns a flooring company in Galway, was one of the festival’s most memorable moments when they carried Mullins on their shoulders after winning the Stayers Hurdle last year. The Thursday lineup at Cheltenham would suffer greatly if he were to withdraw from the 2023 festival.

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